Sunday, July 27, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Strain' - Eph and His Team Battle a Vampire While Thomas Puts on a Face in 'Gone Smooth'

FX's The Strain - Episode 1.03 "Gone Smooth"

Eph and Nora fight to save Captain Redfern's life before coming face-to-face with the horrifying effects of the virus. A spike in rat attacks signals Fet that something inexplicable is happening deep below the city. Released from jail, Setrakian begins his own merciless plan to stop the spread of the disease.

The Strain got off to a great start two weeks ago with its extended premiere but I found last week's episode to be a very tedious follow-up. "Gone Smooth" is tedious as well. And yet, it was filled with a lot of creepy imagery that's exciting and intriguing - Thomas putting on his face, the rats all coming out at once, all the worms in Captain Redfern's body, Ansel drinking the blood from the meat, Gabriel standing tall after his genitalia just falls off and that epic concluding fight between the CDC team and Redfern's new vampire stinger. Those were all well-executed moments that make "Gone Smooth" a much better episode.

While all of that was good, however, the plotting still remains at it's slow pace. Eph goes to the home of the little girl and her father. We know that he is dead and she is still lurking around the house. But it's utterly meaningless to him. That's an odd decision to make. As is the continued story of the custody battle over his son. It does come to a head this week with the official ruling being brought down against Eph. But it still is just playing as important even though it doesn't seem relevant at all. It wants us to know and recognize that Eph has people who he cares about and thus has something to lose in this fight against vampires. First, that fight needs to get kicked into high guy. And I'm already predicting that one day he'll have a very difficult choice to make between saving his family or saving the greater good. That just seems monotonous.

Elsewhere, we learn just why Jim helped the bad guys get the coffin out of the airport in the premiere. He's doing all of it to support his dying of cancer wife. Apparently, there's some experimental procedure being done in Stanford. So that's just enough leverage creepy Thomas needs to hold over Jim's head in order to obtain his cooperation. It becomes important in the end, however, as Redfern is attacking Jim and ready to strike when the voice of the grand vampire tells him not to.

But more importantly, our heroes are coming to understand what they are up against and what they will need to do in order to stop this threat. They've been approaching it from a medical point-of-view this entire time and now they are unearthing just how vampiric the victims are becoming. Early in the episode, Eph bends down to Redfern and says he won't let anything bad happen to him. And then, the episode closes with Eph repeatedly hitting vampire Redfern in the head with a fire extinguisher. Sure, he was just building up his patient's hopes when he made that promise. But he fully wanted Redfern to survive this disease. Eph isn't getting any kind of answers of what happened on the plane and to the bodies. Redfern was his source of answers. But now, after this battle, he'll just have so many more questions. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Gone Smooth" was written by Chuck Hogan and directed by David Semel.
  • I still don't see the point in casting Regina King in the role that she is currently playing. It feels like such a throwaway character and she is definitely not a throwaway actress.
  • Loved the scene of Setrakian in the courthouse and just putting on a show for the judge. He is in no way a feeble old man but he's comfortable playing that card when the situation calls for it. At least Nora saw through it. But hey, he also has a young hacker friend who helps him.
  • It's interesting that we only get glimpses of three of the four survivors this week. I wonder how Joan is dealing with this transformation.
  • Eph killing Redfern with the fire extinguisher was the one time I just couldn't buy the hair piece. It's not distractingly bad. But in that scene it was just crazy.